57 of 64 people found the following review helpful
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In some ways, this book harks back to some works like Olaf Stapledon's Star Maker, dealing as it does with an incredibly vast sweep of time and across the bounds of the entire cosmos (and beyond). At the same time, embedded within it are some of the latest thoughts and theories about just what makes universe be what it is, from quantum entanglement, the many universes concept, to observer based determination of what the world is and will be.
It starts in the incredibly far future, and the described situation at this starting point is intriguing as we see what's left of humanity (or human-like beings) confined to a small area and fighting a losing battle with Chaos. This early section may be the best part of this book, as everything is weird and new, and hints at the history and genesis of the current situation are dropped into the descriptions of this very odd environ, making for an absorbing interaction between reader and words.
Interspersed with this far-future world is the second major thread of this novel, as we return to the world of today and follow three very unique individuals as they try to figure out just where they fit in the world, why they are being hunted (and by what), what they can do with their special abilities, and just what the connection is between these people and those of the far future.
Up to this point, all very good. But as we proceed deeper into this work, problems appear. First is the language used to describe the Chaos. In the hands of someone like Delany or Zelazny, this could have been a treat, but Bear's descriptions have two deadly faults: a lack of definition, a haziness, no scintillating concrete images that you can wrap your mind around; and constant use of the same words and language to describe this non-image - everything is dry, cracked, melted, crushed, twisted, crazed, dim, and dark. As this type of material occupies a large portion of the second half of the novel, it becomes a definite slog to continue reading these same non-descriptions of hazy somethings again and again.
The problem of lack of definition also applies to the major characters, as I found little to make these people stand out as living, breathing things, or why I should care about their ultimate fate. Part of this due to the fact that all of them are manipulated by various `higher powers' to fix the paths and decisions they will make, and the basic motivations of these higher powers are themselves not well delineated till very near the end of the book.
Then there is the final resolution of the two major threads of this work. I found it to be totally predictable both in terms of the decisions of the major characters and the ultimate conclusion of the entire story arc, not good for a work whose major premise deals with choice, unpredictability, and the infinite possibilities of all possible universe world-lines.
This work needed some severe pruning of most of the descriptive sections, and deeper, more fleshed out looks at the internals of its characters. As it is, I found it hard to finish this work, and was left with quite a feeling of disappointment.
---Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)